After more than five years of pushing for Cincinnati to become a national hub for startups and tech entrepreneurs, Pete Blackshaw is leaving Cintrifuse to pursue new opportunities.
Blackshaw announced on Friday his plans to step down as CEO of the Over-the-Rhine-based nonprofit at the end of March. He intends to pursue what he described as “some exciting new opportunities driven by the (artificial intelligence) revolution.”
“There is one particular idea that I can’t stop thinking about — the intersection of AI, trust and sustainability — themes that have animated, focused and inspired me for decades,” Blackshaw said.
“(But as) I look toward this exciting future, I’m also energized by looking back at what we’ve achieved over the past five years at Cintrifuse,” he continued. “We have accomplished so much.”
Creating Cincinnati a tech hub
In joining Cintrifuse, Blackshaw aimed to support the continued development of Greater Cincinnati as a center of innovation in the United States. Much of the organization’s work focuses on supporting the growth and potential relocation of promising tech-oriented startups and emerging small businesses.
During his half-decade tenure, Blackshaw and his staff worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs in their pursuit of seed funding and other financial investment. In 2021 alone Cintrifuse reported its supported startups receiving $320 million in funding.
Under Blackshaw, Cintrifuse refocused its capital fund on attracting more and larger local investments. A key initiative was igniting the annual StartUpCincy Week, which features a variety of networking events, showcases and collaborations.
One year, Cintrifuse hosted a “hackathon” at its Union Hall headquarters to come up with unique ideas to improve recycling in Cincinnati.
Blackshaw also prioritized strengthening Cintrifuse’s strategic partnerships with the region’s major universities and businesses, such as Kroger and P&G. Recently, he worked with the organizers of Black Tech Week to keep the event in Southwest Ohio.
“On behalf of myself, the management team, the board and the entire company, I want to express our thanks and appreciation to Pete for his many contributions and dedication to Cintrifuse,” said Guy Persaud, chair of the organization’s board of directors.
What’s next for Cintrifuse?
Blackshaw described the country as being at a “pivotal moment” because the rapid pace of technological change is shaping the future faster than ever.
“Regions across the U.S. are boldly investing in tech, vying for federal dollars, and competing for talent and capital,” he said. To him, that means organizations such as Cintrifuse are going to be as important as ever.
Persaud voiced confidence that Cintrifuse will go through a “smooth transition” due in large part to Blackshaw. Following his planned departure as CEO on March 31, Blackshaw will act as advisor to assist with transitional needs. One of his duties will be to assist with assembling a search committee to identify his replacement.
“Pete has helped to position our organization well so that our next leader can take us into our next chapter,” Persaud said.
A Cincinnati love affair
Blackshaw joined Cintrifuse in November 2018 after a successful career working in marketing and digital strategy for major international companies, such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Nielsen.
“When the opportunity to join Cintrifuse emerged, I was torn because I was in a fantastic role as global head of digital at Nestlé, but the opportunity to come back to Cincinnati was so compelling,” he said.
A California native, Blackshaw admitted to becoming enamored with Queen City when he first came to P&G. The love affair with the city grew after he worked to launch Planet Feedback, an online portal centered on consumer feedback.
“We raised $31 million and helped put Cincinnati on (venture capitalists’) radar,” he said.
Blackshaw witnessed the 2001 racial unrest unfolding outside his Planet Feedback office. He described it as a “pivotal moment catalyzing police reform, community reinvestment and attention to systemic inequities.”
“The opportunity to return and drive inclusive growth for our ecosystem proved irresistible,” he added.
It’s not yet clear whether Blackshaw and his family plan to remain in Cincinnati following his Cintrifuse departure. For now, he has no plans to relocate. He stressed a commitment to the region, and has been “flattered with the generous offers” since his announcement to physically host his next gig.
Right now, he’s focused on sharing his appreciation for everyone he’s worked with over the past nearly five-and-a-half years and all they’ve accomplished together.
“I am extremely proud of all that we’ve achieved together,” he said. “We’ve built an amazing team and have created an inspiring startup hub in Union Hall.”